🛠️ How to twist a prompt to suit your worldbuilding

How to tackle any tricky worldbuilding prompts! Un-boring them! Twist the meaning of them! Bend the rules! CONQUER THE PROMPTS!

🛠️ How to twist a prompt to suit your worldbuilding
Photo by Matt Artz / Unsplash

Hello I am here to show you how to turn your least favourite prompts into your best worldbuilding and how to feel accomplished and inspired in the process! 🙌

With World Anvil's worldbuilding Summer Camp event coming up in July, I figured this was the best time to show you how to tackle any tricky prompts that can make you feel stuck.

Problematic Prompts

So you've been challenged to answer a worldbuilding prompt and you feel like you can't answer it. You feel stuck, annoyed, and maybe have had one of these responses: "I cant answer that because...":

  • ...my world is a different genre."
  • ...my world doesn't have/use XYZ."
  • ...I've already written about that."
  • ...I don't like that topic/template."
  • ...I really can't think of anything."
  • ...the prompt is too vague/boring."
  • ...the prompt is overly specific."
  • ...that prompt should be for a different article template."

I get it, and I've absolutely felt all of these as an initial gut reaction at some point in my 5+ years of taking part in World Anvil community challenges 🤣

I'm going to show you some very specific prompts and explain how you can twist them to suit your worldbuilding and make it interesting to you so that you can tackle them!

Twisting a prompt

When I say "twisting a prompt", I mean to re-interpret the meaning of it whilst still being able to answer it. You're totally allowed to bend the rules!

Attitude shift

The first step to twisting a prompt is to acknowledge your gut reaction and then flip it into an opportunity.


It's easier for me to explain with examples, so I'll bring up some prompts and show you could twist them for something that's more of a typical fantasy world setting. You can easily swap out fantasy for any other genre that you might be worldbuilding in! :D

"Different genre / doesn't have XYZ"

"What type of drive allows for FTL travel in your world?"

Negative reaction:
"I don't have FTL travel in my fantasy world."

Opportunistic reaction:
The prompt does not define the acronym of FTL, it could mean Fairwinds Travel Lines, maybe that's the name of a company who offers transport in the form of seafaring or newly established rail lines?

The distance of travel is also unspecified, so it could actually be for something that's only a short distance but difficult on foot - such as up a mountain or spanning difficult terrain like a bog or a canyon.

The prompt also doesn't define what "drive" could be. It could be a type of engine, or power source, or it could be the driver/person who drives, or motivation to travel.

The prompt is for a technology article template, so the majority of my article can be relating to technology but the answer to the prompt could just be a quote from a character who has a passionate drive for travelling the world using Fairwinds Travel Lines.

"Already written that"

"Describe a ruined structure that nature has reclaimed. What was its original purpose?"

Negative reaction:
"Well I've already written about that." / "I did something like that last year." / "I've written all of the XYZs in my world."

Opportunistic reaction:
I already have experience in answering this kind of prompt! Last time I really enjoyed writing parts about this type of thing in that place. This other area of my world does not have this kind of thing, maybe I could do something similar there, but with a twist that is unique to the area or culture.

Alternatively, I don't feel like adding another XYZ to my world because I've already written them all. I could consider instead a historical version of what came before, OR I could write a fictional one within my world - perhaps it's well known from an author in my world who wrote a famous story, or maybe it's from a myth or legend. Maybe a character dreamt of it and it doesn't really exist in a physical form?

"Overly specific"

"Describe the most inhospitable place in your setting in the style of an explorers journal"

Negative reaction:
"The prompt is overly specific."

Opportunistic reaction:
Sure, the prompt feels quite specific but I can use that as a great starting point to expand from and write what I would like to write about. The excerpt from the journal can be as long or as short as I want it to be. Maybe only this one explorer thought it was inhospitable and other people think it's lovely and have made a home there? Maybe the area is inhospitable to some, but a certain species or group of people thrive there.

"Unfavoured topic/template"

"What is the leading cause of death in your world?"

Negative reaction:
"I don't like writing about death / I don't like the conditions article template"

Opportunistic reaction:
Maybe if I feel a reaction to this topic, then the inhabitants of my world do, too and I could write about that. Or, instead of focusing on the bad aspects of this maybe instead I can write about the good that came as a result of it such as: better healthcare, technology, and education. I don't have to fill out every part of the article template, I can just write whatever I like in the vignette :D

"Too vague/boring"

"Write about a profession within the education industry."

Negative reaction:
"The prompt is too vague/boring and uninspiring."

Opportunistic reaction:
Ok, this prompt is pretty vague and I find it boring. What personal interests of mine could I add to this to have fun with writing and turn it into something unique? Maybe the profession is within a very niche field of study in the education industry that links to areas of my world that I'm most passionate about :D Maybe my favourite character knows someone who has this profession?

"Wrong template"

"Write about a popular travelling song in your world and the significance of its lyrics."

Negative reaction:
"The article template is wrong and it should be a tradition / XYZ template."

Opportunistic reaction:
I'd prefer it if this prompt used a XYZ article template, but that's okay because I can still answer the basics of the prompt here and expand on the areas I'm more passionate about in my preferred template. Also, I don't have to fill out all of the sections, I could just use the main vignette area to type in! :D

"I just can't think of anything"

"Describe a historical monument in your world and what it represents."

Negative reaction:
"I really can't think of anything and I'm completely stuck."

Opportunistic reaction:
I currently feel stuck when I look at this prompt - what other areas of my world are slightly related to this that I could connect it to? I could try asking further questions about the prompt to find a pathway that sparks an idea such as using the 6 Questions Method.